Here’s a (potentially) hot take: A positive onboarding experience is the singular most important aspect of any employee’s career.
That’s right — the most important aspect of any employee’s career. Not training, not support, not recognition —onboarding. Simply put, the onboarding experience determines if your new hire is actually going to stay with your team. You can have all the training and support services in the universe, but if your new hire leaves before they are even exposed to them, those things mean nothing.
Before we go any further, let’s get something out of the way.
Providing a positive onboarding experience is not just about intangibles and “feelings.”
It comes down to your bottom line. Let me hit you with some older, but still relevant stats from Harvard Business Review:
- “Nearly 33 percent of new hires look for a new job within their first six months on the job.”
- “The organizational costs of employee turnover are estimated to range between 100 percent and 300 percent of the replaced employee’s salary.”
- “It typically takes eight months for a newly hired employee to reach full productivity.”
So, let’s connect some dots here. Let’s say you bring on a new hire on your admin team in January at $50,000 per year.
If that new hire has a negative or unsupportive onboarding experience and decides to join that 33 percent number in their third month, not only have you paid them for all their time in those three months, but you’ve also lost them before they’ve even reached full productivity. Even worse? All in it could cost you thousands of dollars to rehire and retrain a replacement.
It’s easy to hear “positive onboarding experience” and get mental images of stock actors high-fiving around some shiny new swag. It’s much more than that. If we approach the onboarding experience as an intentional investment that we’re making, it will make a world of difference.
So, let’s get started. We’re going to break down the onboarding experience into five main categories: preboarding, cultural onboarding, functional onboarding, setting expectations and ongoing touchpoints.
This is that weird time after you’ve extended the offer, but before they start. This is the phase where companies that have high retention stands out. This is more than just paperwork, signing contracts and getting I-9s in order. In preboarding, you want to get your new hire amped up. We want them excited to join the team and itching for Day One.
Yes, this is a great place to start sending some swag. Do everything you can to prepare your new hire for a successful Day One. We also want to start communicating here what their first day may look like. Try to think of everything so you aren’t putting them in a position to ask a lot of questions:
- Where and when are you meeting on day one?
- Where can they park?
- What are the dress expectations?
- Are you all eating lunch together?
- Is there anything your new hire needs to bring on day one?
- How long will Day One last? Are you getting an early dinner after?
- Do not offer to do a happy hour. A lot of people are sober and you don’t want to put them in a position to have to say no to their boss on Day One.
This should happen within the first day or two. Cultural onboarding is acclimating your new hire to the culture of your organization and/or team.
- How does your team handle problems?
- What do you do to celebrate your successes?
Another aspect of cultural onboarding is making introductions and explaining the team itself. Think of this as your opportunity to explain and introduce your team on a high level. We aren’t mentioning anything about the new hire’s role; we have plenty of time for that later on. For now, we want to help them ensure that they’ve made the right decision. We also want to talk about growth opportunities in our team and organization.
This is where we get into the nitty-gritty. Functional onboarding is the phase where we get into actual job roles and tools that are used in your team. In other words, functional onboarding is where we will teach our new hire how to complete their job. We want to cover everything from clocking-in to closing and everything in between.
If you want to supercharge this phase of the onboarding process, buddy up your new hire with someone in a similar role. Studies show that there is a significant increase in employee retention when new hires are “buddied up” with their peers. This also helps build deeper connections to your team, your organization, and your mission and values.
Finally, we want to set and define expectations. What are the kinds of tasks we expect our new hire to start taking on in the next 30-60-90 days? More importantly, we want to set expectations as to when we expect our new hire out of the “training” phase. Depending on the complexity of the role that may be 60, 90 or even 120 days.
We aren’t just doing this to lay down the law; we want to empower our new hires to keep track of how they’re progressing. If you as the hiring manager pair this with consistent check-ins in those first 30 days, you will also be able to ask them how they feel they’re doing achieving those goals.
We also want to clearly communicate how success will be measured for this role. How will performance be defined and measured? When are yearly reviews conducted? This is our chance to ensure that everyone is on the same page right from the start.
How long do you think the onboarding process takes? 30 days? 60 days? Well, the majority consensus is that the onboarding process takes anywhere between 90 to 100 days. During these first 100 days, we want to be having regular check-ins. Ideally, we will set aside time daily in the first week, then move to a weekly cadence.
Additionally, we want to have formalized, scheduled check-ins at the 30, 60 and 90-day marks to get a pulse-check on how our new hire is feeling. If we’ve outlined the expectation above that they should be relatively comfortable in 90 days, we need to see how they’re feeling at the 60-day mark. These touchpoints are also a great opportunity to ensure that your new hire is building relationships with key stakeholders, both internally and externally.
Remember, onboarding is the most important thing you can do for a new hire. Yes, it requires a lot of time and effort. However, providing new hires with proper onboarding can make the difference between keeping an employee and losing them (and a ton of money) in the long run.